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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

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Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner
Series: DS Manon #2
Published by Random House on July 4, 2017
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
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Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot-pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children—the new baby, and her adopted 12-year-old son Fly Dent. He needed a fresh start—he was being forever stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or possibly that he was the wrong crowd. Being there for the children, and home by five, is what Manon tells herself she needs.

Yet when a wealthy victim is found stabbed close to police HQ, she can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: he is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was also Manon’s sister Ellie’s ex, and the father of her toddler son. The investigation swirls with greater and greater urgency, and as it begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family, she finds herself pitted against the former colleagues she once held dear—Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.

Can Manon separate what she feels about the people she loves, from the suspicion hanging over them? Can she interrogate the evidence, just as she would with any other case? And when Manon instructs defence lawyer Mark Talbot to work alongside her, can she refrain from throwing herself at him in a manner unbecoming to a woman at an advanced stage of pregnancy? Manon must fight to find the truth with every fiber of her being.

Persons Unknown started out slow for me. I read the first in the series and knew Manon and Fly and how they can to be a family, but I guess I forgot how unlikeable Manon can be. I do like her, but she will rub just about everyone the wrong way at some point or other, including the reader. And now she’s pregnant, which I’m not sure was the best decision with just recently adopting Fly, but there you have it.

This time around the mystery hits very close to home for Manon. Manon and Fly are sharing a home with Manon’s sister Ellie and her toddler son, Solly, when Solly’s father turns up murdered. Once Fly is accused and sent to juvenile, the story picks up pace. Of course, Fly’s innocent, we know that, but it’s a complicated case, one Manon is not allowed to directly work on. With Davy’s help, she does manage to get the right information to the right people. The dead man was not a nice guy and worked for a financial firm that was not a nice place, so there are several possibilities of who killed him and why. The mystery is well-plotted and I while I wasn’t surprised at the ending, I was a bit disappointed.

While the mystery was clearly foremost in the novel, Steiner does an excellent job with characters. Sometimes characters in mysteries can get run over by the plot, but here most of them are well-developed. They each have their own motives and secrets. The “good guys” sometimes make bad choices and the “bad guys” can sometimes be helpful. People are shades of grey. The characters, including Manon, Davy, convenience store owner Birdies, and prostitute Angel, make this one stand out from a lot of the mysteries out there.

Persons Unknown can be read as a stand-alone, but I think it was helpful to have read Missing, Presumed first since it gives background on Manon and Fly’s relationship and on Manon’s (lack of a) personal life.

 

About Susie Steiner

Susie Steiner is a novelist and freelance journalist. She was a staff writer and editor on the Guardian for 11 years, specializing in lifestyle features. Her first novel was published by Faber & Faber in 2013. Her DS Manon series is published by Random House.
She lives with her husband and two sons in north London.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

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All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco All Signs Point to Murder by Connie Di Marco
Series: Zodiac Mystery #2
Published by Midnight Ink on August 8, 2017
Source: Partners in Crime Tours
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
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Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary's wedding day, but nobody asked Julia's opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one's prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family apart, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could have occurred. As she digs deeper into the family's secrets, her astrological insights lead her to some rather unexpected conclusions.

First off, I did not read the first in the series, but I’m pretty sure I know what happened in it based on some of the conversations Julia has in this one. Second, I’m not a believer in astrology, but you really don’t have to be to enjoy this book. Yes, Julia’s an astrologer, and yes that plays into how she goes about solving the mystery, but she would have found the same solution eventually even without consulting her charts. I like Julia. She cares about people, she’s smart, and she’s definitely persistent. She has some great friends too. I’d like to hang out with them. And maybe have her read my chart.

As far as the mystery goes, I though overall it was well-done. I thought I knew who the killer was, then I wasn’t sure, then I thought I knew. It turned out that I was right but hadn’t guessed the whole motive. There were plenty of suspects and clues and well-done red herring or two.

Overall, it was a fun mystery and a quick read.

Read an excerpt:

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?

I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.

I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?

I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.

I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.

The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?

I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.

I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

***

Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2017 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

 

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About Connie Di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder was released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri

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The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri The Dance of the Seagull by Andrea Camilleri
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Series: Commissario Montalbano #15
Published by Blackstone Audio on February 26, 2013
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 5 hrs 44 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
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Before leaving for vacation with Livia, Montalbano witnesses a seagull doing an odd dance on the beach outside his home - and then the bird suddenly drops dead. Stopping in at his office for a quick check before heading off, he notices that Fazio is nowhere to be found and soon learns that he was last seen on the docks, secretly working on a case. Montalbano sets out to find him and discovers that the seagull's dance of death may provide the key to understanding a macabre world of sadism, extortion, and murder.

I’m not sure how many Montalbano mysteries I’ve listened to/read now. They start to run together a little. This one opens with a seagull dying on a beach. This scene comes back later as a kind of vision that helps Montalbano solve the case – which is odd and doesn’t feel like it fits with the series. Also out of character is that Montalbano refers  to “that television series” and later the comment “Little surprise that Montalbano couldn’t tell Camilleri how the story would end.” I don’t want my mysteries to be that aware of themselves as fiction, but maybe that’s just me.

Aside from that, the book was fine. It’s been a little while since I finished listening to it and that part that I remember the best is how concerned Montalbano was with finding Fazio, how important it was. And once Fazio’s found, keeping him safe becomes important. Montalbano forgets all about Livia, his long-time lover, coming in for a planned visit, but that’s not really surprising. Livia is rarely top in his mind.

I don’t really remember much about the mystery itself. It was a complicated, there was a cross-dresser, the Mafia of course, lots of food. Montalbano’s grumbly and talks to himself a lot. Not my favorite of the series, but not terrible either.

I put the first 3 episodes of the tv series on hold at the library. I haven’t seen any of them, but it might translate really well to tv.

About Andrea Camilleri

Andrea Camilleri (born September 6, 1925 in Porto Empedocle) is an Italian writer. He is considered one of the greatest Italian writers of both 20th and 21st centuries. Camilleri lives in Rome where he works as a TV and theatre director. About 10 million copies of his novels have been sold to date, and are becoming increasingly popular in the UK and North America.

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